Friday, September 18, 2009

September 18

Although the professors and grad students here at Charles are always finding fault with Harvard, I have to admit: I find taking a class there to be quite thrilling. The class I’m in is one on international security with Tim Saltz. Like Trizenko’s class on Russia here at Charles, both undergraduates and graduates attend the lecture sessions, which meet Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. While the undergrads also meet with TAs in very small sections of four or five students (as apparently is Harvard’s custom), the graduate students meet with Saltz himself for an hour and a half shortly after the Tuesday lecture.

Our class meets on the main campus, right on Harvard Square. I went over early on the first day the class met and walked around a little bit. The campus certainly is beautiful with its old buildings, which really are covered with ivy. I saw that there was a demonstration against the conservative Harvard professors who advised the Bush Administration on the war in Iraq. I joined the demonstration for a few minutes myself. I was glad to be a part of it. It felt good to be alive!

There were about a hundred students at Saltz’s opening lecture—which was extraordinarily well polished. At the end, the students applauded—another tradition at Harvard, I was told. Afterward, there were eighteen or so of us graduate students who met with Saltz. He had us go around the room and introduce ourselves. Most were from Harvard, a few were from M.I.T., and only two of us were from Charles: Michael Radkowski and me.

Saltz’s lectures with the undergraduates are mainly descriptive: the history of war and that sort of thing. His sessions with us graduate students, though, are more theoretical. Back at Barstow, I remember Cohen describing Saltz as a neo-realist. I was surprised to learn at the very first graduate seminar that he is a critic of neo-realism. Not only that: he appears to consider himself a classic realist! I didn’t think there were any of those left, except for a few ancient right-wingers. I’m surprised that Cohen apparently missed this about Saltz.

The grad students have to take two midterms and a final just like the undergrads. But in addition, we have to write a major paper, while the undergrads do not.

There were a few more surprises: the Harvard grad students in the class appeared to be seized with the classic realist vs. neo-realist debate, with only a few neo-liberals sprinkled in. At one point, Michael Radkowski introduced a vigorous Briggsian neo-radical statement into the discussion. What really shocked me was that at the mention of Briggs, several of the other graduate students either laughed or smiled derisively. Saltz himself shook his head, and countered Michael with a statement indicating that he did not take him seriously. Disagree with Briggs, yes. Even I did so in my senior thesis. But dismiss him? I couldn’t believe it! Things are clearly not right at Harvard.

The biggest surprise of all, though, is that Saltz is an African-American. There is, of course, nothing surprising about being an African-American. I was just surprised to find that an African-American professor could also be a conservative. It seems to me that, considering the discrimination and injustice that African-Americans have experienced, they should all be liberals, at minimum.

Michael had not looked pleased when he first saw me at Saltz’s seminar. Afterward, though, we went back to our office together on the subway (known in the Boston area as “the T”). Along the way, Michael ripped in to Saltz, describing him as a “reactionary realist reptile.” He said he wished that Briggs himself could have been there to put him in his place. He called the Harvard grad students “nothing but a bunch of upper classholes.” He said most of them were too afraid to stray too far from their “realist—neo-realist reservation” for fear of jeopardizing the job at State, Defense, or CIA that awaited “all good little Harvard boys” who successfully avoided saying anything intelligent, which would automatically disqualify them.

Although Michael criticized Saltz severely, I was gratified that he did not once refer to his happening to be an African-American. I, of course, didn’t either. After his tirade subsided, Michael asked me about the other classes I was taking. We both agreed that Briggs is the absolute greatest. He advised me to read everything on his syllabus, even if it meant going without sleep, so that I could fully appreciate Brigg’s critique of everyone on it.

“How am I supposed to get through my other three classes if I do that?” I asked him.

As far as Asquith’s methodology class was concerned, Michael advised me not to bother doing any of the reading at all, and claimed that he had certainly not done so. “Just talk the methodology talk with him and he’ll be happy. The one thing you must never do is tell him that any of it is bullshit, even though most of it is.” Michael assured me that this is what he had done, and that he’d gotten an “A” for the course.

I asked him about the mock research proposal we were supposed to do for the second semester of the class. Michael’s response was that by then, Briggs would have taught me as much as I really needed to know about methodology to get me through it with flying colors.

Michael indicated that he had never taken any classes with Trizenko, but he assured me that I wouldn’t have to do any real work to get through the one on Russia. “Don’t bother with his reading list; just keep up with the news. That’s all he teaches anyway, from what I hear,” said Michael.

I wouldn’t say so to Michael, but I was actually enjoying Trizenko’s class. Listening to him made me understand what an incredibly complicated country Russia is—so complicated that applying any sort of theory to try to understand it would not be easy. Maybe that’s what I’ll try to do in the paper for his class.

There is, however, another reason why I am enjoying this particular class: it just so happens that there are some really good looking undergraduate females in it. With the weather still warm here, they come to class in shorts or miniskirts. There’s one girl in particular who’s been sitting in the desk beside mine whom I find it very difficult not to look at. She has long black hair that falls half way down her back. But despite her dark hair, she has pale skin and haunting blue eyes. And what incredible legs! I like listening to her talk with her friends before class starts; she seems to have a mischievous sense of humor and is always laughing. Yes, I’d much rather look at her than at Trizenko during the lecture, but that, of course, would be inappropriate.

On this note, I would like to state here that, like other men, I am attracted to beautiful women. But unlike most other men, I seek both intellectual as well as sexual stimulation from a woman. Indeed, I have found that for me, sexual stimulation leads to intellectual stimulation. Thus, unlike other men whose interest in a woman might be limited to her body, I am just as interested in her mind—and I seek stimulation from both.

The problem I have found, though, is that it is difficult to find both sorts of stimulation to the high degree that I desire together in one woman. So many of those who could obviously provide sexual stimulation just as obviously cannot provide intellectual stimulation. And sadly, those who can provide the latter often seem unwilling or unable to provide the former.

Back at Cal State Barstow last year, I had a relationship with a woman from whom I did derive a tremendous degree of both sexual and intellectual stimulation. Unfortunately, my own intellectual development was proceeding much faster than hers, and after awhile I no longer received the intellectual stimulation from her that I needed. It was necessary then for me to end the relationship. She was very hurt by this. But as I tried to explain to her, she had disappointed me in not sharing my enthusiasm for my senior thesis project, which meant so much to me. Our relationship ended in bitterness. I must admit, though, I still do think about her sometimes.

I wonder if I’ll ever find out whether this girl I sit next to in Trizenko’s class can provide me with both the sexual and the intellectual stimulation which I crave. I have no doubt that she could provide the former. But could she—would she—provide me with the latter?

[Some might advise me to delete the last five paragraphs of this entry, but I will not. In addition to my intellectual life, I want my future biographers to understand the rich, complex nature of my emotional life.]

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